Monday, March 12, 2012

Jack's Brain, Jill's Brain: Gender Differences and Why They Matter / Heather Higgins

This session was a fast-paced romp through the latest brain research.  Heather began the session with "3 fast w's" and a quick True/False quiz:

Three fast w’s:  Whether there are differences; Where there are differences, and Why there are differences.  Research shows that the brains in females and males are anatomically, functionally and developmentally different.

Quick True/False statements:
The emotional center of the brain known as the amygdala is larger in boys – TRUE
The corpus callosum connects the brain’s hemispheres and is larger in girls – TRUE (single biggest difference in brains) – women can jump back and forth more efficiently
Boys prefer instruction in practical, concrete, “every day” language – FALSE – Girls do – boys love codes, jargons, puzzles
Adolescent girls are more vulnerable to depression than adolescent boys – TRUE – has to do wirth our neurotransmitters – serotonin drops in adolescent girls / part of puberty putting girls at greater risk
(Boys have dopamine drop during adolescents making them more vulnerable to risk-taking)
Girls should be seated up front due to eyesight and hearing abilities – FALSE – boys eyesight and hearing develops more slowly than girls eyesight and hearing

We need to modify environments for our kids.  Our boys are so easily distracted in elementary school, often because their hearing/eyesight is not yet completely developed.  Hearing develops so acutely in girls, so they may think teachers are yelling at them.  This was an "aha" moment for me as a middle school educator.  Through the years I have heard girls complain that a teacher (usually male) "yelled" at them when that was clearly not the case.  But now I know that this may be a perception simply  based on hearing.  Wow.

 BRAIN ANATOMY 101:  Brain learns well when new info can be attached or compared with old info

Hippocampus (the UPS guy): it’s the memory maker of our brains, can find the memories when we need them – we have two of them and not developed ‘til the age of two; larger in girls than in boys until after adolescence =; too much stress or cortisol eats away at your hippocampus (shaped like a seahorse – and there are two)

Amygdala (the Palace Guard): larger in males than in females – their primary job is to keep us out of danger (physical/emotional…); amygdala never forgets – but remembers extremes – most wonderful and worst things / amygdala is fully developed at birth – we can remember even before we have language – often leads us adults to ask “What were you thinking?” – Amygdala REACTS/ does not think.

Corpus Collusum (the Brooklyn Bridge):  connects the hemispheres between the brain; done developing around 12-13 – communication between the hemispheres.

Frontal lobes (the Executive System): does not develop ‘til mid-twenties – judgment, insight, knowing right from wrong – that is the last part of the brain to develop. Some parents hold their boys back in school because tthey’re not ready – frontal lobe functions include:  impulse control, organization (thought and action), time orientation, reading social cues, predicting behavioral consequences, and goal achievement.  Girls' development is often a year or two ahead of boys in the frontal lobe arena.

Temporal lobes control memory, hearing, speech, emotional responses – larger in girls but evens out at adolescence.

There are 4 neurotransmitters:
Cortisol – stress “uh-ho”  Chronic stress can increase cortisol and damage your hippocampus.
Adrenaline – “yikes”
Serotonin – “ahh” (hot baths, Prozac, Zoloft, yoga, music w/ 60 beats a minute or less,, mild exercise, friendships.
Dopamine – “yahoo” Things we become addicted to – drugs, chocolate, 150% increase the first time you eat it every three days, love, sex, novelty.

Men have larger brains (about 9%) than women

Ratio of babies concreived: 170 boys to 100 females
Ratio of babies born at term: 105 males to 100 females

Boys grow faster in utero.

In U.S. for every 100 girls:
Enrolled in kindergarten, there are 116 boys
Enrolled in high school, there are 100 boys (16 boys died/ risky behavior)
Who graduate high school there are 96 boys
Enrolled in college, there are 77 men
Who earn a masters degree there are 62 men

Many researchers say we are teaching to the female brain.

For every 100 girls suspended from public schools, 250 boys are suspended.
For every 100 girls expelled from public schools, 350 boys expelled.

Average age of puberty has dropped two years from 12 to 10 in girls in last 50 years.

Girls – aspire to be a doctor or lawyer
Boys – aspire to be a professional athlete

Preschool – boys need more space and movement
Kids have identified theselves as male or female
Kids jusge others’ genders by outward appearances
Boys will likely play fight
Girls have higher level of oxytocin neurotransmitter – allowing for bonding and caretaking
Girls use all senses, boys rely primarily on visual cues

Kindergarten – boys get into more trouble

1000x increase in testosterone boys
girls’ serotonin drop and great increase in progesterone and estrogen

Language – A woman uses 20,000 words per day, while a man uses about 7,000.

Girls are more likely to generalize criticism, so be sure to be specific
oabout the criticism.

Boys are more likely to be color-blind, but they can see motion very well.
For every 100 girls diagnosed with sped, 217 boys
Lerning disiabiliuty, 275 boys
Emotional disturbance, 324 boys
Boys are 3x more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD
We are misdiagnosing and overdiagnosing.

Key point:  We are born to play; our brains crave play.

 Learning 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days review to best learn material.

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